Fran’s Baked Macaroni & Cheese

IMG_1557 (575x360)Yes, yes, I know I should be posting recipes that won’t tempt you to stray from your New Year’s resolutions. I read somewhere, however, that these resolutions on average are forgotten by the second week of January. So, I’m only a week early posting this type of recipe. :-)

Recently, I had a hankering for some macaroni and cheese—you know, winter comfort food. It had been a really long time since I’d made some since I generally avoid dairy and starch carbs. I’m also lactose intolerant although I’ll take some Lactaid to indulge when a dairy craving is too powerful to resist. When I thought about it, it had been several years since I’d made mac and cheese. Time to fix that!

I waited until a kid or two showed up for a visit so that I wouldn’t pig out on leftovers. When my daughter Sara heard what I was planning to make, however, she gave me some push-back. I don’t really like plain macaroni and cheese…I had some really awesome mac and cheese that used cheddar and Gruyère cheese in it. As if that weren’t enough, Roger made a little face when he heard what I was going to make for dinner. Sara’s boyfriend, Greg, did the politically correct thing and kept quiet.

My recipe is a fairly basic one for macaroni and cheese—with one major exception. I always add a “secret” ingredient that gives my mac and cheese a delicious “je ne sais quoi” twist. It’s next to impossible to identify just exactly what it is that imparts a nice savory but quiet zing. My secret? Romano cheese!

I grew up with Romano cheese rather than Parmesan in all dishes Italian and then some. I love the stuff. In fact, my whole family does. When I’m grating a hunk of fresh Romano, Sara will come and steal as much of it as I’ll let her and eat it as is.

When the casserole came out of the oven, I kept my fingers crossed that Roger and Sara in particular wouldn’t be disappointed. I needn’t have worried. They went for seconds and told me that it wasn’t merely good, but really, really, good!

Romano—long live the king of cheeses!

IMG_1558 (575x355)One year ago: 2014 Top Ten Favorites

Two years ago: 2013 Top Ten Favorites

Three years ago: 2012 Top Ten Favorites

Four years ago: Bread Sculpture Dough

Fran’s Baked Macaroni & Cheese

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb. elbow macaroni, cooked al dente and salted (while cooking) according to directions on package
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick) – do not use this for buttering casserole dish
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk plus additional if needed to thin mixture
  • 1 lb. white American cheese, chopped into 1″ pieces
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup bread crumbs, crushed crackers, croutons, or Cheez-Its according to personal preference
  • 1 tbl. butter, melted

Directions

Preheat oven to 400o F.

Butter a large casserole and set aside.

Place crumbs in a small mixing bowl. Melt 1 tbl. butter and pour over crumbs. Stir to moisten crumbs evenly. Set bowl aside.

Cook elbow macaroni according to package directions to achieve al dente tenderness. Drain and dump into prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup Romano cheese, stirring to distribute cheese evenly. Set casserole aside while you make cheese sauce.

Melt stick of butter on low in 4-quart saucepan. Whisk in flour to make a smooth roux. When mixture is smooth, slowly pour in milk and whisk to incorporate. Add chopped American cheese a little at a time while whisking constantly. After all the American cheese has been added and melted, add a little more milk if necessary to get pouring consistency. Add pepper and mix in.

Pour cheese mixture over elbow macaroni and stir to mix evenly. Sprinkle with prepared crumbs.

Place uncovered casserole in oven. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until crumbs turn golden.

IMG_1553 (575x383)IMG_1575 (575x352)Fran’s Notes

I’m the only one who likes crushed Cheez-Its as a topping, so I sprinkled some on a quarter of the casserole. For the remainder, I sprinkled with Chatham Village garlic & butter flavored croutons.

Source: A frantastic version of an old classic

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